Russia Fights for Christianity in Syria, the US Fights Against It

Russian President Vladmir Putin and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kyrill

Source: Russia Insider

This article originally appeared at Frontpage Magazine

By Raymond Ibrahim

The Orthodox Christian Church, which is reclaiming its traditional role in post-Soviet Russia, has just described its government’s fight against the Islamic State and other jihadi groups in Syria as a “holy war.”

According to Vsevolod Chaplin, head of the Church’s Public Affairs Department,

The fight with terrorism is a holy battle and today our country is perhaps the most active force in the world fighting it. The Russian Federation has made a responsible decision on the use of armed forces to defend the People of Syria from the sorrows caused by the arbitrariness of terrorists. Christians are suffering in the region with the kidnapping of clerics and the destruction of churches. Muslims are suffering no less.

This is not a pretext to justify intervention in Syria. For years, Russia’s Orthodox leaders have been voicing their concern for persecuted Christians. Back in February 2012, the Russian church described to Vladimir Putin the horrific treatment Christians are experiencing around the world, especially under Islam:

The head of External Church Relations, Metropolitan Illarion, said that every five minutes one Christian was dying for his or her faith in some part of the world, specifying that he was talking about such countries as Iraq, Egypt, Pakistan and India. The cleric asked Putin to make the protection of Christians one of the foreign policy directions in future.

“This is how it will be, have no doubt,” Putin answered.

Compare and contrast Putin’s terse response with U.S. President Obama, who denies the connection between Islamic teachings and violence; whose policies habitually empower Christian-persecuting Islamists; who prevents Christian representatives from testifying against their tormentors; and who even throws escaped Christian refugees back to the lions, while accepting tens of thousands of Muslim migrants.

Russian Patriarch Kirill once even wrote an impassioned letter to Obama, imploring him to stop empowering the murderers of Christians. That the patriarch said “I am deeply convinced that the countries which belong to the Christian civilization bear a special responsibility for the fate of Christians in the Middle East” must have only ensured that the letter ended up in the Oval Office’s trash can. After all, didn’t Obama make clear that America is “no longer a Christian nation“?

Of course, Russian concerns for Christian minorities will be cynically dismissed by the insufferable talking heads on both sides. While such dismissals once resonated with Americans, they are becoming less persuasive to those paying attention, as explained in “Putin’s Crusade—Is Russia the Last Defender of the Christian Faith?”

For those of us who grew up in America being told that the godless communist atheists in Russia were our enemies, the idea that America might give up on God and Christianity while Russia embraces religion might once have been difficult to accept. But by 2015, the everyday signs in America show a growing contempt for Christianity, under the first president whose very claims of being a Christian are questionable. The exact opposite trend is happening for Russia and its leaders—a return to Christian roots.

Indeed, growing numbers of Americans who have no special love for Russia or Orthodoxy—from billionaire capitalist Donald Trump to evangelical Christians—are being won over by Putin’s frank talk and actions.

How can they not? After one of his speeches praising the West’s Christian heritage—a thing few American politicians dare do—Putin concluded with something that must surely resonate with millions of traditional Americans: “We must protect Russia from that which has destroyed American society”—a reference to the anti-Christian liberalism and licentiousness that has run amok in the West.

Even the Rev. Franklin Graham’s response to Russia’s military intervention in Syria seems uncharacteristically positive, coming as it is from the head of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, which for decades spoke against the godless Soviets: “What Russia is doing may save the lives of Christians in the Middle East…. You understand that the Syrian government … have protected Christians, they have protected minorities from the Islamists.”

Should U.S supported jihadis (“rebels”) succeed in toppling the government of Syria, Graham correctly predicts that there will be “a bloodbath of Christians”:

There would be tens of thousands of Christians murdered and slaughtered and on top of that, you would have hundreds of thousands of more refugees pouring into Europe. So Russia right now, I see their presence as helping to save the lives of Christians.

Incidentally, it’s an established fact that the “good rebels”—or “moderates”—are persecuting Christians no less than the Islamic State.

When asked why the Obama administration is so callous towards the plight of persecuted Christians, Graham, somewhat echoing Putin, said the American president was more invested in promoting the homosexual agenda than he is in protecting Christians:

I’m not here to bash the gays and lesbians and they certainly have rights and I understand all of that, but this administration has been more focused on that agenda than anything else. As a result, the Middle East is burning and you have more refugees moving today since World War II. It could have been prevented.

In reality, it’s not Russian claims of waging a holy war to save Christians from the sword of jihad that deserves to be cynically dismissed, but rather every claim the Obama administration makes to justify its support for the opposition in Syria (most of which is not even Syrian).

There are no “moderate rebels,” only committed jihadis eager to install Islamic law, which is the antithesis of everything the West once held precious. If the “evil dictator” Assad kills people in the context of war, the “rebels” torture, maim, enslave, rape, behead, and crucify people solely because they are Christian.

How does that make them preferable to Assad?

Moreover, based on established precedent—look to Iraq and Libya, the other countries U.S. leadership helped “liberate”—the outcome of ousting the secular strongman of Syria will be more atrocities, more Christian persecution, more rapes and enslavement, and more bombed churches and destroyed antiquities, despite John Kerry’s absurd assurances of a “pluralistic” Syria once Assad is gone. It will also mean more terrorism for the West.

Once again, then, the U.S. finds itself on the side of Islamic terrorists, who always reserve their best for America. The Saudis—the head of the Jihadi Snake which U.S. presidents are wont to kiss and bow to—are already screaming bloody murder and calling for an increased jihad in Syria in response to Russia’s holy war.

Will Obama and the MSM comply, including through an increased propaganda campaign? Top Islamic clerics like Yusuf al-Qaradawi—who once slipped on live television by calling on the Obama administration to wage “jihad for Allah” against Assad—seem to think so. Already the U.S. “welcomes” the new cruel joke that Saudi Arabia, one of the absolute worst human rights violators, will head a U.N. human rights panel.

At day’s end and all Realpolitik aside, there is no denying reality: what the United States and its Western allies have wrought in the Middle East—culminating with the rise of a bloodthirsty caliphate and the worst atrocities of the 21st century—is as unholy as Russia’s resolve to fight it is holy.


  1. Francis Frost says

    Dear Father Johannes:

    Your posting of the article advocating “Holy War” is shocking; not only for its incongruity with the Gospel of Peace; but its complete dissonance with the clear teaching of our Patriarch, the reverend Hierarchs of the See of Antioch and its Orthodox Theologians. It seems our local Orthodox internet pundits have abrogated to themselves an authority above their superiors to alter the Gospel and the tradition of the Orthodox faith.

    Good Lord, help us!

    Listen to the words of his Holiness, Patriarch John X in his address to the Antiochian Archdiocesan Convention earlier this year:

    We do not fear the testimony for Jesus Christ in every time and place; however, we are people of peace and the product of the peace Inventor. We have Metropolitans and priests who had been kidnapped for more than two years now, within a suspicious and shameful International silence. They are the Metropolitans of Aleppo Youhanna Ibrahim and Paul Yazji. We have priests, monks, nuns, people and martyrs – their only crime is that they hold the entity of Christianity. We have brothers who were forced to immigrate, others obliged to pay tributes. We have people carrying their lives over their hands whilst living within the rockets range, which did not spare a school nor civilians, nor military people in Damascus and all around Syria. We have in Lebanon a country moaning under the exterior forces and conflicts living under the constitutional void and flames of kidnapping as well.

    We are not talking about protection of Christians as if Christians are factional, isolated from others. We emphasize and say that protecting Christians and everyone else happens through establishing peace in their land. Protecting the Orient, happens through planting olives and empowering the peace foundations and not through aircrafts and providing weapons to attack unarmed civilians. Protecting the East and its people happens through turning off the fire of wars. Protecting this land happens through looking with humanitarian eye to all what is happening not in the eye of interests.

    From here, from this place, I raise my voice east and west and I say to all the world. Let us live, let our people live, and do not make our land a circuit of conflicts. What is happening in our land is a blind terrorism that we are not used to.

    His Holiness rejects war as a mechanism for reconciliation, then why do you endorse it?

    As for the Chaplin’s insane declaration of an Orthodox Jihad, hear what our Antiochian Hierarch and theologians have to say:

    Preaching at last sunday’s Divine Liturgy, Metropolitan Elias Audi of Beirut preached the following sermon:

    Metropolitan Audi: There is No Holy War and Our Church Does Not Bless Wars

    The Greek Orthodox Metropolitan of Beirut, His Eminence Elias Audi, presided at the Divine Liturgy at the Cathedral of Saint George and after the Gospel he gave a sermon in which he said:

    Jesus said to His disciples, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile you and persecute you and falsely say all manner of evil things against you for My sake. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven…”

    When the Lord says these words or lives this life before us, it is in order to strengthen us and cause us to live a life in which we respond to evil with good and injustice with love. This is why He said to His disciples and those who believe in Him: If you want to be My disciples or if you are truly My disciples, you must act like Me and be in My image because you are united to Me. For this reason, the Church absolutely does not bless those who fight others or those who harm others. The Church does not bless those who kill others because human life is the possession of the Lord and when someone kills another person, it is as though he wants to kill God. In reality, the one who is killed goes to the Lord, while the killer’s heart is unjust. The unjust is inhabited by Satan and Satan will not enter the kingdom of God. Therefore the Church also does not bless wars and does not say of them that they are holy. That is, it does not sanctify wars and does not accept such a statement. Every church must be like this if it teaches the Lord’s teaching or if it hears His words. For this reason, we Orthodox, especially in Antioch, even as we suffer, are expelled from our homes, and are reviled, we do not fight our enemies. And as we see, our people in this region are leaving and abandoning their homes and living a miserable existence and some are even departing, but they are not returning evil with evil. Therefore, let it be clear that our Orthodox Church in which we are members does not bless and does not sanctify wars and does not say of any war that it is holy. I doubt that anyone who has said such a thing has heard the words of the Lord Jesus, “Love your enemies. Bless those who persecute you. Do good to those who hate you…”

    Fr Georges Massouh: Holy Wars… Ridiculous!

    “My kingdom is not of this world” and not “My kingdom is not in this world” was Christ’s response to Pilate when he interrogated Him before handing Him over to be crucified. Christ denied that His kingdom was “of” this world– that is, in the image of this world, in the image of the kingdoms of this world.

    Christ did not despair, despite His objectivity, of man’s ability to attain perfection. He did not want to completely close the door in man’s face. Rather, He wanted him to try to establish a kingdom that would be up to the standards of the Gospel. The “Christian state” in its various forms and identities has failed, from its establishment under Constantine the Great down to our present day. This state failed because it was “of this world”and was unable to be different from what prevailed among the nations. Indeed, with their brutal practices and the atrocities that they committed, Christian kingdoms have perhaps provided the ugliest examples among nations.

    Christ realized this before it happened. He realized that nations are not built on sincere intentions, on righteousness and piety, or on lofty teachings. A state in this world means a state of this world. He did not have the slightest doubt that when Christians obtained power, they would be like all people who obtain power. They would be scornful, exploitative, despising the vulnerable. The logic of the state is not the logic of the Gospel. The Gospel calls for tolerance, forgiveness, love, and giving freely. The state calls for punishment, prison, law and taxes…

    Christ realized this when He disdained and mocked political authority. On the day when He was crowned as a king, the day of His entrance into Jerusalem, unlike the custom of ancient or modern kings, He rode a donkey. He rode a donkey after having previously fled from the crowd when they wanted to make Him king. His closest disciples, like that crowd, did not understand Christ’s logic, since they asked Him who among them would sit at His right and His left in His glory and almost quarreled over this question. They asked for an authority for themselves that they did not receive from Him.

    Christ realized this, and nevertheless He called on Christians to be committed to the affairs of the world and of people, to defend values and virtues and proclaim the truth. Christianity, contrary to what some may imagine, is a religion that is not only concerned with spiritual matters but also strives for a better world where peace, justice, love and mercy reign… This requires struggle against evil and sin. Even though historical experience is discouraging in terms of the possibility of this promised, ideal kingdom, its realization is not impossible, even if it is difficult. A church historian once said that Christian emperors ruled more harshly than pagan emperors because a pagan emperor considered himself to be a god among many gods, while a Christian emperor considered himself to be the one God’s sole representative on earth.

    Christ did not establish a kingdom “of” this world that launches holy wars led by His successors, heirs or followers. There have existed what some consider “Christian” empires, but even apart from their assaults on non-Christians, they committed massacres against Christians opposed to them and their policies. The [Holy] Roman Empire launched Crusades that targeted Eastern Christians alongside Muslims. The Byzantine Empire persecuted Syriacs, Copts and even Chalcedonian Orthodox (during the reign of Heraclius), just as the Byzantines and Bulgars slaughtered each other while both were unquestionably Orthodox and Protestants and Catholics slaughtered each other in Europe… and in the modern era— and here we have no desire to open old wounds– we can point to the Christians in Lebanon fighting and slaughtering each other in the name of Christianity…

    In reality, today there is no “Christian” state and no “Christian” president or leader in the image and likeness of Christ on the face of the earth. Therefore the wars of this state and this ruler are not in any way “holy”. People are free, in matters of politics, to support this or that state in their wars, but not in the name of Christianity or in the name of the Church and not under the pretext of protecting the existence of Christians or under the pretext of defending minorities. The logic of the Church must be other than the logic of this world.

    Carol Saba on “Holy Wars”

    Russian “Holy” War in the Eastern Mediterranean and Syria?

    The Middle East is once again demonstrating its international geopolitical and geostrategic centrality at the intersection of Asia, Africa and Europe. This is shown by the start of Russian intervention and airstrikes in Syria, but also by the forces of the Western coalition, the Chinese navy, without mentioning the consequent regional military forces of Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Israel and so on. This center of the world that is the Middle East constitutes a strategic crossroads of influences that pivot on a central geopolitical line of three B’s– Berlin, Byzantium and Baghdad– that can cut the world in two.Since the earliest times, this center has not ceased to be a crucible where the appetites of the great powers manifest themselves, meet and kill each other.

    Today, the confrontation between all these powers that are gathering in the Eastern Mediterranean around the Syrian conflict, raging in this threatened and threatening region, is at its peak under “open skies”. An impressive deployment of fleets, friendly or hostile, that are concentrating unprecedented military resources, whether logistical, intelligence-gathering or command posts. A theater of operations where nations and their most divergent interests oppose each other and where the most voracious passions and tensions are growing. A veritable inferno stoked by explosive regional and international embers, threatening the region with general conflagration at any moment.

    There is, of course, the context of the internal Syrian conflict, but also the conflict against Syria. There is also the regional context of an Arab world imploding from within with nation-states long dominated by dictatorships and draconian autocracies. Nations-states of the Arab world that were unable to remedy the situation with a liberating Arab Spring are today decaying and giving way to a vacuum that is being filled by an extreme religious radicalism that gleefully wields unspeakable terror on a regional and international level and does not hesitate to reawaken all the old demons. Thus it reawakens and stirs up at will the old internecine wars of Islam, between Shiites and Sunnis. Thus it exploits the sacred for political purposes without restraint and disenters the old demons of the historical subconscious of this region that is still traumatized by the memory of the Crusades and colonialism, associating the Western coalition fighting it with the Crusaders.

    Entering into this powder-keg context a few days ago came a communication from the spokesman for the Moscow Patriarchate, Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, commenting on the military operations that his country has commenced in Syria from the point of view of the Russian Orthodox Church. These statements were repeated, commented upon and crossed the world like lightening, launching a war of the airwaves. Some did not hesitate to carry over into his comments a language of “holy war”, while for others it was not a question of “holy war” but of a fight against terrorism that the spokesman described as a holy struggle. In any case, the unfortunate statements which were corrected by a subsequent declaration by His Holiness Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow, provoked a terrible shokewave and over-excitement in the media, on social networks, and in public opinion both East and West, with extreme opposing reactions of approval and disapproval, with some not hesitating to compare the Russian deployment to a Muscovite crusade in the manner of ISIS.

    Clearly, this unfortunate incident highlights the risky nature of any attempt to use the sacred in the current explosive context of the Middle East, something that can only unleash murderous passions. More than ever, we must pay attention to the power of the words that we use because words, in our world of digital revolution, are weapons that kill long before the guns kill! More than ever, churches must maintain a positive distance from these risks in order to avoid any unfortunate amalgam that could result when the interests of nations and powers are at play. More than ever, churches must keep intact their fundamental capacity, in accord with their evangelical mission, to act intelligently and courageously for peace and reconciliation.

    No, there is not nor can there be in Orthodoxy any theological, strategic or tactical legitimization of war, even if it is described according to the situation and the era as “holy”, “just”, “justified” or “justifiable”. Clearly, for every Orthodox Christian, every war is reprehensible and should be condemned because they are and only can be the expression of evil in the world. War is at once a failure and an evil. The Lord reminds us in Matthew 26:52-53, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?” Did Christ not have the possibility of calling upon legions of angels to save Himself from death? His Church is called in every era and according to the specifics of every situation, to intelligently and sometimes pragmatically follow His absolute Model and One Thing Needful, remembering that true “holy war” is that which is invisible, spiritual warfare, the pnevmatikos polemos that Saint John Chrysostom so often mentioned in his homilies.

    I will conclude by evoking the words of the late Patriarch Pavle of Serbia who reposed in 2009, a saint of our time, who in his time as patriarch during the conflicts in Bosnia and Kosovo, had to face the terrible trials of war and the irrational and murderous passions that it unleashes. His teaching to his own flock was always imbued with the spiritual tension that the Christian must keep within himself in order to “remain human even amidst those who are not.”

    “It is our responsibility,” he said,”to do everything in order to be really prepared, even among wolves, to be Christ’s sheep. God sends us so that through our life and our faith we may lead the wolves to become, if they so desire, Christ’s sheep. But, in any case, the most important thing is that we do not become wolves. This principle will allow us to subsist both biologically and morally. And if we must disappear, we accept to disappear, all while remaining human to the end.”

    In the Fall of 1992, he had to intervene with the Serbian population of Eastern Bosnia so that they would let through a humanitarian convoy bound for the Muslims of Sebrenica. It was in these eloquent terms that speak for themselves that he addressed them: “It is as a father that I beg the Serbs of the Drina region to clear the way for the international humanitarian aid convoy bound for Sebrenica. Even if you think that this aid is more necessary for yourselves and your suffering families, it is better to suffer injustice for the moment than to inflict it yourselves on others, on your brothers of a different religion who are just as miserable as you. Let us all be human beings, children of God, and let us have more trust in His justice than in our own anger, however justified it may seem. In the name of the evangelical love of God and of our Holy Church who teaches it, I send you my blessing with faith that aid will also arrive to relieve your suffering, insofar as crime does not respond to crime, and that before the most terrible trials we may behave as a Christian people, the heirs of Saint Sava.”

    • Christopher says

      Fr. Georges Massouh says:

      ….People are free, in matters of politics, to support this or that state in their wars, but not in the name of Christianity or in the name of the Church and not under the pretext of protecting the existence of Christians or under the pretext of defending minorities. The logic of the Church must be other than the logic of this world.

      Like all Orthodox who try to argue for a de facto hard pacifism (a radical individual and political pacifism for the Body of Christ) he weaves in and out of “worldly” and “Holy” logic (if I may put it that way), in the end simply to try to prop up his worldly understanding of the meaning of suffering, violence, and death. It is as if he forgot that at the center of Christianity is the Roman instrument par excellence of suffering, violence, and death. Thus, he says the second sentence just after the first with no understanding of the irony…

  2. It seems to me there is basic misunderstanding or misinterpretation of term peacemaker as well as the commandment “do not kill” and even words of Hierarchs given above. None of those means do not act or do not resist and even do not kill! Sounds very strange and illogical? Please, do not blame me but rather look in The history of old testament and Orthodox church (there is no need for examples from the history of Catholic church – they had absolutely different motivation for wars): How do you think what was the king David doing while fighting with enemies? Throwing flowers to them or reading homilies? And how do you think, if he would do that he would be justified in his actions? If you say it was old testament lets see new history. Please read the life of Constantine the great and many many other saint warriors and kings. How they were defending their people and church? Did they killed enemies? Did they planned strategic actions against them? Using war tactics? Were they are in hell or in heaven? According to one Wise man, there is time for peace and time for war and if you try make peace whenever it is time for battle you rather get condemned than justified. Wrong explanation from my side, or maybe misinterpretation? I do not dare to be judge in this situation but you can read about that in homilies of St John Chrysostom on the Gospel of St Matthew Chapter 5. I think his authority is enough to question of our understanding of peace and war. I ask forgiveness of there was something wrong in above mentioned

    • PittsburghGal says

      I agree with you, Giorgi. As Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 states:
      “There is a time for everything,
      and a season for every activity under the heavens:
      a time to be born and a time to die,
      a time to plant and a time to uproot,
      a time to kill and a time to heal,
      a time to tear down and a time to build,
      a time to weep and a time to laugh,
      a time to mourn and a time to dance,
      a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
      a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
      a time to search and a time to give up,
      a time to keep and a time to throw away,
      a time to tear and a time to mend,
      a time to be silent and a time to speak,
      a time to love and a time to hate,
      a time for war and a time for peace. “

  3. Francis Frost says

    More from Fr George Massouh:

    Fr Georges Massouh: I did not Come to Bring Peace, but a Sword

    Those people who rush to the Bible in order to justify their words and deeds that are not in accordance with Christ excel at producing some verses in support of their errant opinions, but only after cutting the passage off from its context and distorting it from its true intent. Quite a few have resorted to this method in order to back up their opinions about what is falsely and slanderously called “holy war”.

    Jesus’ saying, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword” (Matthew 10:34) is the verse most commonly cited among supporters of the idea of holy war. However, if we continue reading the passage in which this verse occurs we will discover– if we allow ourselves to be guided by the exegesis of the Fathers of the Church– that it has no connection to military wars or struggles or battles. The text continues with Jesus saying, “For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it” (Mathew 35-39).

    What is meant by the sword, then, is not the chopping weapon used in wars, but rather the word of God that cuts between good and evil, between righteousness and iniquity, between goodness and sin… Likewise, the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews says, “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). In his explanation of the verse, Saint Hilary of Poitier (d. 367) says, “When we are renewed by the water of baptism by the power of the Word, we are separated from the root of our sins and our will. We are cut off from our unbridled attachment to father and mother, as by the sword of God, and are separated from them.”

    As for Saint Jerome (d. 420), it appears even more clearly in his exegesis of the passage, and he recalls that after Jesus said “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword”, He divided a man from his father, mother and relatives “so that he will not place family allegiance ahead of faith … We must preserve this order in all our relationships. Love your father, your mother and your children, on the condition that your love of family does not come into opposition to your love of God and it becomes impossible for you to hold on to both at the same time. Rejecting your family is better than rejecting God.”

    Blessed Augustine (d. 430) is of the same opinion, so after mentioning that the father says to his son “I begot you” and the mother says to her son “I bore you”, the father says, “I reared you” and the mother says “I sustained you”, Augustine commands each one of his readers to say to his parents, “I love you in Christ, not instead of Him. You are with me in Christ, but I will not be with you apart from Him.” But if the parents say, “We do not care about Christ,” then for Augustine the choice is clear: “Say to your parents, ‘I care about Christ more than I care about you. How can I obey the one who reared me and lose the one who created me?'”

    As for when Jesus said, “He who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one” and His disciples responded, “It is enough” (Luke 22: 36-38), Saint Ambrose of Milan (d. 397) says, depicting the Holy Apostle Peter saying to Jesus, “Why do you order me now to buy a sword when you forbade me from using it? Why do you order me to possess what you forbade me to unsheathe?” Then comes the response according to Ambrose, who continues: “You said, O Jesus, to Peter when he offered two swords, ‘It is enough’… This seems evil to many, but the Lord is not evil. Despite his ability to take vengeance, He chooses to be crucified. There is a spiritual sword to sell what you possess and buy the Word.”

    Those who want to go to the Bible to extract what suits their lusts and desires will inevitably be frustrated. The true believer is the one who goes to the Bible to search for what the Bible wants to say to us. We do not make it say what it does not say after distorting it, chopping it up and fragmenting it. To those who want to justify their holy wars, we say in colloquial Arabic, “Go knit with a different needle!”

    • Christopher says

      “Those who want to go to the Bible to extract what suits their lusts and desires will inevitably be frustrated….To those who want to justify their holy wars, we say in colloquial Arabic, “Go knit with a different needle!””

      Again, the irony. Fr George Massouh’s “desire” (even “lust”) is a false “peace on earth” where we are simply to die (in a false martyrdom) – a world where in the name of “peace” he would have us turn the Alter of Christ (i.e. the bloodless sacrifice) into a very bloody one indeed.

      To Fr George Massouh who extracts a radical pacifism (and even a fear of the very suffering and death through which we are saved) from the Bible, I say “Go knit with a different needle!”…

  4. Francis Frost says


    It is important to remember that the holy Fathers rarely relied on the literal reading of the Old Testament stories. Rather, they most often interpreted those stories in an allegorical sense. For example, the commandment to war against the Amalekites is interpreted as a command to undertake spiritual war against the passions. This form of interpretation is best illustrated in “The Life of Moses” by St Gregory of Nyssa and int “The Great Canon” of St Andrew of Crete.

    We should also remember that the early Christian Roman Emperors deliberately delayed their baptism until shortly before their deaths, as they knew that their military exploits were inimical to a Christina life. The first emperor to be baptized earlier in life, was Anastasios who became seriously ill and was not expected to survive. We should also remember that the many soldier saints were canonized as martyrs, that is as victims of violence, not as perpetrators of violence and war.

    The very concept of an ‘Orthodox Christian jihad’ is a serious deviation, even a heresy, as can be seen by the vigorous opposition of our Antichian hierarchs and theologians to this idea. This is Russian government propaganda discussed as theological opinion; but it is not in accordance with the Gospel nor the teaching of the Orthodox faith.

    In reality, the Putin government is not fighting in Syria to protect the local Christians. If it were so, then they would have done so long ago. Where was Putin when our Archbishops were kidnapped by the Chechens or when Ma’aloula was sacked and our nuns held captive? Putin is in Syria now to prevent the next jihad in Russia. You see, fully one quarter of the Jihadists in Syria and Muslims from Russia.

    These Jihadists groups are the inheritors and descendants of Muslim mercenary armies formed by the Russian government in the 1990’s under the umbrella of the “Confederation of the Mountain Peoples of the Caucasus.” These militias were used as surrogates in the Russian invasions of Georgia and the attendant ethnic cleansing and genocide against Orthodox Christians in the occupied territories. Later these Muslim militias rebelled against their Russian overlords and eventually morphed into the “Caucasus Emirate”, which is allied with Al Quaeda and ISIL. Putin now fears that if Bashar Al Asaad falls and the war in Syria ends, these jihadist will return to Russia to carry on jihad on Russian soil.

    The idea that the Russian government is a protector of the Orthodox faith is absurd. In the invasions of Georgia, Orthodox holy places and clergy were specifically targeted. In 1992, the holy martyrs, Hieromonk Andrea Kurashvili and sub-deacon Giorgi Adua were brutally tortured and killed by the Abkhazian forces under Russian command. In 2008, the Russian and Ossetian military rocketed the ancient Ghvrtaeba Cathedral and the Shrine of the Protomartyr Razhden in Nikazi. The next day, the looted the cathedral, desecrated the holy altar and then burned that ancient temple of God. Can such people be considered protectors of Orthodoxy? Of course not.

    The sad fact is that there are some who want to insinuate politics into the life of the church. Such ‘political Orthodoxy’ is a deviation from the truth of the Gospel and a deception of the evil one. Sadly. Fr Johannes has still not explained why he is publishing theological opinions contradictory to the clearly expressed teaching of our Antiochian Orthodox Patriarchate, its hierarchs and theologians.

  5. Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

    Francis, you are amplifying a rather minor point and one I am not interested in defending. The point of the article is the failure of US policy which has contributed to the uprooting the Christians of the Mid-East and fostered their persecution. That is why I posted it.

    Secondly, this blog is not your personal soapbox. If you want to pontificate, start your own blog.

  6. Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

    Frances, we’re done. You end up dominating every discussion with your mile long posts. Start your own blog. Seriously.

  7. Robert Collins says

    I wouldn’t trust anything that comes out the mouths of the hierarchs on this issue as they have to be ‘ultra-careful’ muttering all the usual protestant guff related to the subject a) for fear of reprisals and b) to keep the secular world (aka Mammon) from seeing red. In private of course they all toast the Putin pilots ! And God bless them we all should ! Christians have been crucified and burned alive in a genocide reminiscent of the Armenians, now at last they have some hope. Glory to God!

    • PittsburghGal says

      Amen, Robert! I am an American and hang my head in shame for the actions of the current administration. We are fighting our moral battles here on our own soil, so I am thankful that President Putin has heeded the call to intercede in Syria…I do not think him nor President Assad monsters, but this opinion is the result of my own research. Far too many people are eager to embrace whatever attitude media tells them to take. His defense of Syrian Christians is an answer to prayer.

  8. I’m always amused by the claim that Christianity and Christ are pacifists. To me the suggestion is ludicrous given His identity as Second Person of the same triune God who appears to us in the Old Testament. Christ even tells his apostles to arm themselves after the Last Supper (Luke 22:36) [btw, the exegesis regarding fulfilling a prophecy utterly fails to explain why Christ exhorted his followers to go out and buy swords, though it might otherwise explain why He allowed some of them to carry swords. I mean, did they go out to the 24/7 armory that very night to purchase swords just so they could appear like brigands later?]. He frankly tells them that when He sent them out before, they were relatively safe. This time, they out to be prepared to be confronted with violence.

    He praises Old Testament figures who engaged in violent endeavors, neither He nor John the Forerunner told the Roman soldiers with whom they spoke to quit soldiering, etc. Moreover, imagine a feckless Christian allowing a bully to strike him 70 times 7. I think such sayings are exhortations to patience in civil society, employing the hyperbole characteristic of the language He spoke (“If your eye offend thee, pluck it out . . .”).

    Besides, if we were to take His words literally on these matters, there could be no Christian government and Christians, one and all, would be at the mercy of anyone who dared to use violence. That is certainly not the history of the Orthodox governments or Church Fathers. Recall that St. Basil declined to call killing in warfare murder or unlawful. Thus endeth the reductio ad absurdam.

    But my real point is this: Fr. Vsevelod did not say “holy war”. He said, “священная борьба”:

    “Борьба с терроризмом, за справедливый мир, за достоинство людей, которые испытывают вызов террора, – это очень нравственная, это, если хотите, священная борьба, и сегодня наша страна является, наверно, самой активной в мире силой, которая противостоит террору.”. –

    Which means:

    “The fight against terrorism, for a just world and for the dignity of people who are experiencing the challenge of terror – this is very moral, it is, if you will, a sacred struggle, and today our country is probably the most active power in the world opposed to terror.”

    Russians do have a phrase for “holy war”. It was used during WWII, “Священная война”.

    • Btw, does one use “spiritual” scrip and sell “spiritual” cloaks in order to purchase “spiritual” swords? Inquiring minds want to know.

  9. This caught my eye today. To those who would spiritualize the events of the Old Testament to the exclusion of the reality of what was described:

    “If something has been recorded in the Old or New Testament to have happened historically, and this or that deed was manifestly accomplished, and we interpret it for our own purposes, using ideas and thoughts for our own spiritual edification, do not suppose that we have disregarded the letter, or rejected the history. By no means! We neither condemn nor reject the perceptible event that has been committed to history. Since, however, we are [in] the world, we benefit today by interpreting everything that happened yesterday for our own purposes.”
    + St. Nilus of Sinai, Letter 2.223

    • Misha,

      Thank you for this gem of a quotation. Saint John of Kronstadt speaks similarly.

      “When you doubt in the truth of any person or event described in Holy Scripture, then remember that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God (2 Tim. 3:16), as the Apostle says, and is therefore true, and does not contain any imaginary persons, fables, and tales, although it includes parables which everyone can see are not actual narratives, but are written in figurative language. The whole of the Word of God is one, entire, indivisible truth; and if you assert that any narrative, sentence, or word is untrue, then you sin against the truth of the whole of Holy Scripture and its primordial Truth, which is God Himself.”

      Allegory is a wonderful thing and a very useful method of application of the Scriptures to our lives, but it needn’t be to the exclusion of history. It seems that some are so embarrassed by history that they cannot bring themselves to admit to it. And because something happened (often at the command of God) that seems repugnant to modern sensibilities they cannot bring themselves to accept that “God could do such a thing.” But just because these things happened (again at the command of God) at a specific time and within a specific context doesn’t mean they apply in the same way to us. This, it would seem, is what they (wrongly) think they must admit if such things actually occurred.

      The conquest of the Canaanites provides the most fodder for embarrassment. But it is all-too-easily forgotten, or simply not known, what sort of people were destroyed. The book of Wisdom is clearest and most direct in this regard…

      “Therefore chastenest thou them by little and little that offend, and warnest them by putting them in remembrance wherein they have offended, that leaving their wickedness they may believe on thee, O Lord. For it was thy will to destroy by the hands of our fathers both those old inhabitants of thy holy land, whom thou hatedst for doing most odious works of witchcrafts, and wicked sacrifices; And also those merciless murderers of children, and devourers of man’s flesh, and the feasts of blood, with their priests out of the midst of their idolatrous crew, and the parents, that killed with their own hands souls destitute of help that the land, which thou esteemedst above all other, might receive a worthy colony of God’s children.

      Nor do they see the patience and mercy extended to them…

      Nevertheless even those thou sparedst as men, and didst send wasps, forerunners of thine host, to destroy them by little and little. Not that thou wast unable to bring the ungodly under the hand of the righteous in battle, or to destroy them at once with cruel beasts, or with one rough word: But executing thy judgments upon them by little and little, thou gavest them place of repentance, not being ignorant that they were a naughty generation, and that their malice was bred in them, and that their cogitation would never be changed. For it was a cursed seed from the beginning; neither didst thou for fear of any man give them pardon for those things wherein they sinned.

      Nor do they remember when they judge by worldly standards…

      For who shall say, What hast thou done? or who shall withstand thy judgment? or who shall accuse thee for the nations that perish, whom thou made? or who shall come to stand against thee, to be revenged for the unrighteous men? For neither is there any God but thou that careth for all, to whom thou mightest shew that thy judgment is not upright. Neither shall king or tyrant be able to set his face against thee for any whom thou hast punished. Forsomuch then as thou art righteous thyself, thou orderest all things righteously: thinking it not agreeable with thy power to condemn him that hath not deserved to be punished.

      “But what about the innocent children?” They themselves were spared from being reared in such wickedness, quite possibly to their eternal destruction. Death is not the end, nor is it the worst thing imaginable. God is both merciful and just.

  10. G. Défontaine says

    Reminiscent – somehow – of the wrath and bitterness of Tewodros II, negusa nagast of Ethiopia, when told of an alliance formed by the French, the British and the Turks against Christian Russia (The Crimean War, 1853-1856)…

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